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September 23 Weekly Newsletter

The above is not sod but rather sunshine mimosa.

Why aren't new homes built with native plant yards instead of sod? It's a timely question. Research in central Florida shows that 64% of our drinking water is used for home irrigation, a figure spiking to 88% in the summer months. (Source)

That doesn’t mean no one is trying to do it. Sunbridge, an in-process development outside of Orlando, is bucking the trend by installing native plant yards in their new homes. They're collaborating with the University of Florida, the Nature Conservancy, and other groups to see how viable this is large scale. Dr. Basil Iannone, one of the presenters at next year’s Pelican Island Audubon’s Transforming Landscapes Conference in January, is directly involved in the project.

They've found that using native plants make both business and environmental sense. The costs are similar to sod lawns, and the water savings are huge. We're looking forward to sharing more about this and hope to collaborate with local developers to bring this initiative to our community. This shift toward native plants would be a vital move in water conservation and securing potable water for the future. (And it looks nice too!)

During my ongoing participation in the 23rd class of the National Resources Leadership Institute, we visited Sunbridge and saw these native plant yards firsthand. The experience affirmed the need for creative solutions as Florida's development continues to grow.

Fresh water isn't limitless. We must confront the massive water wastage on our lawns and consider innovative alternatives like native plants. Otherwise, we risk depleting a resource we all depend on daily.

Thank you again for your ongoing support.

Dan Lamson Executive Director Indian River Neighborhood Association


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By donating, you are playing a crucial role in furthering education and fostering positive change in our community. Your contribution aids in the continual fight for clean and sufficient potable water. We can't accomplish our mission without your support. Thank you for partnering with us.


Save the Date!

📅 When: Tuesday, October 10, 5:00 to 6:30 PM (drop in/drop out) 📍 Where: Walking Tree Brewery, 3209 Dodger Rd., Vero Beach (near the airport) 🍻 Enjoy: Award-winning beers, wines, sodas (available for purchase)

Join the Indian River Neighborhood Association for a relaxed evening of conversation and camaraderie at Walking Tree Brewery. Talk with local officials and Sebastian and Vero Beach City Council candidates in an informal setting. We have found this offers everyone attending a chance to discuss pressing issues and get to know each other better. This is a great opportunity to connect with those who are and will be shaping our community.

Feel free to bring a friend or neighbor, everyone is welcome! Looking forward to seeing you there.


Check here to see how the IRNA, along with many other organizations, are supporting the Florida Right to Clean Water initiative.


News Headlines and Articles

Tired of heat, climate change? Pelican Island Audubon Society has free oak, native trees (TCPalm) - Immediate action is needed to combat climate change by planting native trees and updating local ordinances to protect natural resources and lower heat and carbon emissions.

Here come the trains! (Vero News) - After 11 years of planning and delays, Brightline has finally started high-speed train service through Vero Beach, connecting Miami to Orlando, despite local concerns about safety, environmental impact, and property values.

Condo owners face depressing triple whammy (Vero News) - New Florida legislation is increasing financial pressure on condo owners by requiring fully-funded reserves for major future repairs, on top of already high insurance rates and mandatory inspection costs, raising concerns about potential evictions and financial strain, especially for elderly residents on fixed incomes.

Can harvesting Indian River Lagoon's algae make a healthier river, good shoes, fuel or ink? (Yahoo News) - AECOM's new project, funded by a $1 million state grant, aims to combat harmful algal blooms in the Indian River Lagoon using a barge-mounted harvester; the technology employs "nanobubbles" to remove algae and other pollutants and will be tested in multiple locations over five months.

Using Tech to Fight Algae – So We Don’t Have to Crack Down on Polluters (Vote Water) - While new technologies like algae harvesting are being funded to clean Florida's waterways, the state is largely ignoring the root cause of the issue, which is pollution, particularly from agriculture and industries with significant political influence.

Blue-green algae toxins are a human health risk (News-Press) - Public understanding of the risks of blue-green algae in Florida is limited, as focus is often only on immediate mortalities, overlooking long-term health risks like liver and neurological diseases, as well as ignoring guidelines and advisories meant to prevent exposure.

Vero Beach breaks daily rainfall record Tuesday (Vero News) - Vero Beach broke its daily rainfall record on Tuesday with 2.4 inches, surpassing the previous record set in 1943, and weather experts issued a flood advisory for Indian River County.

Reimagining new home construction with drought-free landscaping (The Apopka Voice) - UF/IFAS researchers are partnering with land developers in Central Florida to study the benefits of using drought-tolerant native plants in home landscaping, aiming to reduce water and chemical use, improve water quality, and offer wildlife benefits.


Last week was National Estuaries Week, an event where people across the U.S. focused on the importance of estuaries. Here in Indian River County, we took special notice of the Indian River Lagoon, an Estuary of National Significance. Estuaries like this are vital to both the economy and environment. They serve as crucial habitats and support a majority of U.S. commercial and recreational fishing.

The IRNA is dedicated to protecting and restoreing the Indian River Lagoon. From stormwater treatment to sediment removal and wetland restoration, we work to keep this unique environment thriving. Last week's observance served as a reminder of how much work is still needed to protect these vital ecosystems.


Positions Versus Interests: the Role They Play in Negotiation (The Conflict Expert) - This is something we spoke about at NRLI this week. The position is 'what I want' and the Interest is the 'why I want it.' While positions are often rigid stances, interests reveal the underlying motivations and needs. Focusing on interests allows for more creative, mutually beneficial solutions, helping to avoid stalemate situations that waste time and resources.

Airbnb Really Is Different Now (The Atlantic) - We've been concerned with the impacts of short term vacation rentals in our residential neighborhoods. It seems the whole industry is changing now, and not for the better. Airbnb's transformation from a gig-economy startup to a massive industry disruptor has led to growing pains, including high prices, inconsistent fees, less personalized experiences, and regulatory challenges, diminishing its original appeal for both hosts and guests.

Studies Based on 1953 Revealed Lake Okeechobee was becoming Dangerously Hyper-Eutrophic (Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch) - Since 1953, Lake Okeechobee's water quality has gotten worse due to pollution, mostly from human activity, leading to toxic algae problems that haven't been adequately addressed.

A High Seas Treaty Aimed at Protecting Polluted Oceans is Now a Reality (Coastal News Today) - A new international treaty aims to protect the world's oceans from issues like overfishing, plastic pollution, and habitat destruction, and will become legally binding after 60 countries ratify it.

The world just sweltered through its hottest August on record (Coastal News Today) - August 2023 was Earth's hottest August on record, marking 45 consecutive Augusts and 534 consecutive months with temperatures above the 20th-century average.

Pod of orcas spotted 100 miles off Florida east coast during fishing trip (TCPalm) - Eight fishermen spotted a pod of about four orcas 100 miles east of Fort Pierce, Florida, while on a fishing trip for yellowfin tuna.

Annual Pelican Island Conservation Society Bird & Nature Art Show (Indian River Guardian) - The Pelican Island Conservation Society is hosting its ninth annual Indian River Bird & Nature Art Show from October 8-14, 2023, at the Environmental Learning Center in Wabasso, featuring juried artwork for sale and various awards.

Coming Up! Kids hooked on ‘Lines in Lagoon’ and its mission (Vero News) - The 10th annual Lines in the Lagoon Fishing Tournament aims to raise awareness about the health of the Indian River Lagoon and takes place on Sept. 23, inviting young people throughout the county to participate.



Wind opponents spread myth about dead whales (Coastal News Today) - Opponents of offshore wind energy are spreading false information, linking a recent spike in whale deaths to offshore wind development and exploration devices, despite a lack of scientific evidence, with some receiving funding from fossil fuel interests and media personalities amplifying these claims; experts and studies indicate that the actual causes of whale deaths are more likely related to boat collisions and fishing activities.

For manatees on Florida's west coast, red tide is a complicated, deadly nemesis (Coastal News Today) - Red tide, impacting both water and air, is causing manatee deaths on Florida's west coast, particularly affecting their food sources due to water quality lapses in areas like Sarasota Bay, with some 30 to 50 percent of the east coast manatee population possibly starving to death in the last two and a half years.

Making yards more diverse can reap big environmental benefits (SN Explores) - Lawns, often consisting of monocultures of non-native grasses, are being reconsidered as ecological wastelands, with experts advocating for more diverse yards that support a greater variety of plants and animals, potentially conserving water, reducing chemical pollution, and promoting healthier ecosystems with benefits for both people and wildlife.

Study: Coastal communities to face 100-year floods annually (Coastal News Today) - Due to climate change and rising sea levels, coastal communities worldwide are expected to face 100-year floods every nine to fifteen years by the end of the century, making historical flood predictions less accurate, according to a study conducted by researchers, emphasizing the need for proactive land planning and protective measures.

California and Florida grew quickly on the promise of perfect climates in the 1900s – today, they lead the country in climate change risks (Coastal News Today) - California and Florida, once marketed as semitropical paradises with perfect climates in the 1900s, are now facing escalating climate change risks, including wildfires, hurricanes, and sea-level rise, challenging the vision of the sun-kissed good life they once promised to residents and tourists.

America’s most iconic coral reef is dying. Only one thing will save it. (Vox) - Extreme heat, driven by a marine heat wave, has caused mass bleaching and the deterioration of coral reefs in the Florida Keys and the Caribbean, threatening their survival and the ecosystems they support, with global warming and carbon emissions further exacerbating the problem, leading to a need for innovative restoration efforts and urgent carbon emission reduction.

A post-Idalia look at Sarasota and Manatee counties (Herald Tribune) - Hurricane Idalia serves as a wake-up call for Florida coastal residents to recognize the reality of the climate crisis, warming Gulf waters, and sea level rise, with the Gulf Coast expected to experience twice the sea level rise between now and 2050 as seen in the past 80 years, prompting questions about the sustainability of rebuilding efforts in increasingly vulnerable areas.

A Colorado City Has Been Battling for Decades to Use Its Own Water (The New York Times) - The city of Thornton, Colorado, faces a protracted battle over accessing water rights it secured almost 40 years ago due to bureaucratic hurdles, legal disputes, and debates over the distribution of a vital resource, leading to delays in city growth and development.


ORCA Renovations Update

The upgrades at ORCA's D.J. Rainone Research & Science Center are going well and they're getting closer to finishing up. After passing all the necessary inspections for plumbing and electrics, things are moving fast.

They have put the new windows in, started on the roof, and the kitchen cabinets are there waiting to be installed. Once the roof is done, they'll be able to work inside without worrying about the weather.

Every day brings ORCA one step closer to having a functional space for research and community education, a place where people can work together, share ideas, and find inspiration.



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